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Jakarta Post

Olympics postponement gives Indonesian sports stakeholders breathing space

  • Ramadani Saputra
    Ramadani Saputra

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 25, 2020   /   05:05 pm
Olympics postponement gives Indonesian sports stakeholders breathing space A 3D printed Olympics logo is seen in front of the words, "Tokyo 2021" and representations of the COVID-19 coronavirus on March 24. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

The Indonesian sporting world appeared to breathe a synchronized sigh of relief after it was announced that this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games would be postponed for a year, allowing the government and affected sports associations to shift their focus toward keeping their athletes healthy and the global COVID-19 pandemic at bay.

Months of uncertainty regarding the hosting of the Tokyo Games came to an end on Tuesday night after International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to postpone the games until 2021, allowing countries to prioritize the well-being of their athletes.

The Youth and Sports Ministry announced it fully supports the move to postpone the 2020 Games, saying in a statement that it was the best decision the organizers could make during the global health crisis, which has put a lot of strain on efforts to ensure the safety of athletes and officials taking part in the quadrennial event.

“The ministry feels that all parties, including Indonesia’s National Olympic Committee (NOC), the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) and all the heads of the sports federations, as well as the athletes who have prepared for the Games, can understand the decision, since the postponement [...] not only affects Indonesia but all other countries as well,” it said.

“We can imagine how difficult it is for the Japanese government.”

The Games’ postponement does not mean, however, that athletes can suddenly take off for a long holiday, as the ministry has asked them to keep training to maintain their condition while ensuring physical distancing measures are taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“The ministry, along with the NOC and NPC, will immediately review the available budget for our training programs, since the government is now focused on preventive measures for the coronavirus outbreak,” it said.

The ministry allocates about Rp 99 billion (US$6 million) for Olympics preparation training and Rp 80 billion for Paralympics training.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics came amid mounting pressure from athletes and officials around the world who felt the IOC and the Tokyo organizers should have changed the schedule from the July-August time frame much sooner, as it became clear to many that it would not work. 

Prior to the IOC’s announcement on Tuesday, Australia and Canada already called off deploying their squads to Tokyo. The United States’ Olympics and Paralympics Committee soon joined in, demanding the organizers postpone the Summer Games.

Indonesia’s chief of the NOC, Raja Sapta “Okto” Oktohari, held off as long as he could from following in the footsteps of other countries that were withdrawing from the Tokyo Games, as he had previously said Indonesia would back any decision by the IOC regarding the schedule of the Games, putting trust in a committee he said he believes places the safety of athletes over everything else.

As officials have repeatedly made clear, Indonesia plans to use the Tokyo Games as an opportunity to garner the support of other participating countries for its bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

Separately, the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) also praised the IOC’s decision to postpone the Games, with one official saying it was a “wise decision” to prioritize the safety of the athletes, officials, spectators and other stakeholders.

“Now we will wait for a decision from the Badminton World Federation [BWF] regarding the Race to Tokyo Olympics qualifiers as they are sure to make some changes there. When these adjustments have been made, we will tweak our program so we can remain on track to achieve our target of winning in the Olympics,” said PBSI secretary-general Achmad Budiharto.

“This isn’t about profits or losses. We don’t have a choice because it affects us all,” he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Should the BWF choose to use the current regulations for the Olympic qualifiers, Indonesia would be able to send two representatives for the men's singles, men’s doubles and the mixed doubles categories, as well as one representative for the women’s singles and doubles.

Meanwhile, NPC deputy secretary-general Rima Ferdianto said the postponement has also put the Paralympics squad at ease as they now could focus on keeping the coronavirus at bay by staying at home.

“This decision means we are no longer haunted by the fear [of contracting COVID-19] during our training program. This also means that the preparation program for the Tokyo Paralympics is halted until the coronavirus outbreak in the country is contained,” Rima told the Post.

“We have communicated with the Youth and Sports Ministry and they agreed to suspend training for the Paralympic athletes, so we will send them back home at the end of this month,” he said.

“As for the training funds allocated to the Paralympics preparation, we will give back the remaining funds to assist the government in handling the coronavirus outbreak.”